MELBOURNE - China's top junior ace has set her sights on becoming the country's own Agnieszka Radwanska.
Budding star Zheng Saisai, the No 9 seed at the Australian Open girls singles, was the nation's only player in the junior event, and exited in the second round against Germany's Krista Hardebeck.
Although her Melbourne campaign ended prematurely, the 17-year-old claims she learned from the tough challenges from Western opponents and has vowed to play smart tennis; like Polish world No 8 Radwanska.
"The competition here is much more fierce than other tournaments as more players participate and most of them are very professional," Zheng said of her third Australian Open junior experience.
Asked who was her favorite player on the WTA tour, Zheng said Radwanska.
"She is not as tall and strong as other European players. Her body shape looks similar to us. But she's still doing well on the tour because she plays smart - with great skills, speed and anticipation. That's a style that fits us, and I should learn from her," said Zheng, who bagged her first WTA title in the doubles in Guangzhou last year.
Turning 18 next month, Zheng will mainly focus on the ITF circuit but make some forays into WTA events this season.
"My plan for this year is to play mostly singles in ITF Challengers and try to get used to the WTA events through doubles. Hopefully, I can crack the top 200 and finish near the top 100 this season," Zheng said.
Sharing the same American coaching crew with China's world No 17, Peng Shuai, Zheng said she has benefited a lot from the advanced training methods.
"My coach (Timothy Nichols) usually lets me do an extra practice right after each match to correct mistakes. He customizes pre-match plans for me and that helps a lot," Zheng said.
Nichols, who monitored the Japanese national team from 1990 to 2000 as a member of its coaching crew, is well aware of Asian players' strengths and weaknesses.
"She (Zheng) is not as powerful as those European or American girls. She should play more spin strokes like a Spanish guy does on clay. That style needs more energy. You need a lot of reaction and speed, (strong) legs and strain. That's the biggest thing, so we did a lot of workouts on fitness during winter training," Nichols said.
He said he would choose some "necessary" tournaments for Zheng to improve her ranking and help her reach the French Open qualifiers.